Flames sink Bucs
Baseball takes two of three games for a win over CSU
Game 1: Liberty 10, CSU 4
The Flame Train rolled to a 10-4 victory over Charleston Southern Friday, April 8 at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
Charleston Southern failed to score a single run after loading the bases in the top of the first inning with no outs. Following three singles in a row, Liberty Pitching Coach Garrett Quinn made a visit to the mound to calm down his starter. Victor Cole got himself out of a potentially disastrous opening frame by striking out two along with forcing a pop fly.
“You just have to keep battling with what you have that day,” Cole said. “I just have to keep a positive mindset no matter what.”
Scoring began in the third inning as Mike Sconzo knocked in a run with a single to left field. Following a rare mound visit by Head Coach Jim Toman, Cole gave up a second run off of a Kevin Hickey single to right field.
The Flames chopped the Buccaneer lead in half by scoring a run in the bottom half of the same inning. Following a lead off double, third baseman Eric Grabowski scored on an errant throw by CSU shortstop Cole Murphy as DJ Artis stole second.
Throughout the game Cole struggled to keep runners off the bases. CSU left runners on base every inning, including leaving the bases loaded twice up through the fourth inning.
“It seemed like Charleston Southern was really swinging the bat well early, but we wiggled out of some jams and (Cole) only gave up two runs early,” Toman said. “He found a way to get out of innings. I was proud of him.”
Liberty tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Andrew Yacyk hit a double to lead off the inning as the ball bounced in and out of the glove of left fielder Sly Edwards. Yacyk scored the tying run as Nick Walker, who uses the Star Wars theme song as his walk up song, hit an RBI single to center field.
The Flames took the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Freshman DJ Artis drove home the go-ahead run with a laser shot to right field. Fellow freshman Jack Morris crossed home plate standing up as Artis easily made it into second.
“They’re good kids who work really hard,” Toman said. “They’re getting some experience in college baseball and they just keep getting better.”Walker added another RBI single to tack on another run for the Flames in the
fifth inning and give them a 4-2 lead.
The Buccaneers were forced to pull Evan Raynor, their starting ace, in the sixth inning after giving up three earned runs in five innings pitched. At the end of the inning, Payton Scarbrough hit home a run to enlarge the Flames lead 5-2.
Liberty added five runs in the seventh inning to score in five consecutive innings. Artis added two more RBIs on a single to centerfield in the inning.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play because I knew if we got those runs it’d pretty much be done, we’d kill their self esteem,” Artis said.
The bottom third of the lineup, comprised of Dalton Britt, Grabowski, and Morris, combined to score six runs. Artis raised his batting average to .417 on the season after going three for four on the night.
Game 2: CSU 6, Liberty 1
The Flames (18-15, 4-4) tied thier season-high in errors with four en route to falling to the Charleston Southern Buccaneers (13-18) by a score of 6-1 Saturday, April 9, at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
The loss broke a 15-game winning streak for the Flames over the Buccaneers.
The Flames were powerless against the dominant pitching of sophomore Daniel Johnson of the Buccaneers. Johnson held the Flames to only three hits and one run while striking out six batters in seven innings of work.
“(Johnson) was really working the corners,” Britt said. “He was really locating well. He had all of the pitches everywhere he wanted them. He was really working the outside. We just couldn’t make the adjustments. He had everything going, and he hit his spots.”
On the other side, Flames pitchers struggled throughout the game, giving up 11 hits and five earned runs.
The Flames scored their only run in the first inning.
Artis got the Flames started with a leadoff walk and later scored on an RBI groundout from junior right fielder Will Shepherd.
The Buccaneers responded in the second inning on a two-RBI single from senior second baseman Ryan Maksim that scored sophomore catcher Mike Sconzo and junior designated hitter Brandon Gragilla to take the lead 2-1.
The Buccaneers first capitalized on a Flames error in the sixth. With Sconzo on third, Maksim bunted and Flames junior pitcher Zander Clouse mishandled the ball, allowing Sconzo to score.
After three straight outs in their half of the sixth, the Flames were plagued by errors again in the top of the seventh.
Buccaneers center fielder Sly Edwards reached second base on a dropped fly ball in deep right field by Shepherd to start the inning. Right fielder Chris Singleton singled the next at-bat to move Edwards to third. Senior pinch hitter Kevin Hickey stepped to the plate and placed a bunt into the left infield, which Klaus recovered and threw over the catcher’s head, allowing Edwards to score and advancing Hickey to second base.
Sconzo hit a sacrifice fly into the outfield that scored Singleton from third, increasing the lead to 5-1. The Buccaneers added one more run in the eighth when senior shortstop Cole Murphy scored from third on a wild pitch to make the final tally 6-1.
Toman was not pleased with his team’s play, calling Saturday’s game the Flames’ “worst performance of the year.”
“(Charleston Southern) outplayed us in all three facets,” Toman said. “They outplayed us offensively. They pitched better than we did. And they played better defense. We probably made six or seven errors. We missed a couple of fly balls, and we don’t normally do that. Give credit to Charleston Southern for a really good game. They outplayed us.”
The Flames beat the Buccaneers 9-6 to take the series Sunday.
The Flames visit Big South Conference foe Campbell in Buies Creek, North Carolina, for a three-game series April 15-17.
Keating is a sports reporter.
Dillard is a sports reporter.